New Patio-Old House

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Old houses are so picturesque and have lots of charm inside, but outside can be a different story. I got a call for a job for an early 1800’s house that had been decorated to the nines inside but lacked the same appeal on the outside.

Stone Work

There were several obstacles-one was the imposing curved brick wall around the sun room with the steep drop down to the lower level (lower blue arrow). The other was the very small exit from the brick surround to the grassy area, only 2 1/2 feet wide (upper blue arrow).

Adding an upper patio and cutting out a new wider entrance
Adding an upper patio and cutting out a new wider entrance

The first order of business was to add a mortared blue stone patio behind the mud room (small off-set room), replacing the old brick pavers next to the house. Adding six or seven large four to five feet wide guillotined steps curving down the slope took care of the steep drop from the patio.

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We filled in the old narrow opening with new brick and removed old brick to create a wider five foot wide opening making for easier access. At the bottom of the steps, large steppers curved around the imposing brick wall.

Large steppers curve around brick wall
Large steppers curve around brick wall

A small water feature was installed on the upper patio.

Placing the base of the water feature
Placing the base of the water feature

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Right outside the mudroom door we built a small entrance patio to the larger patio. A sitting wall encircled the larger patio to give additional seating room. Lighting was installed around the patio and down the steps.

Small entrance patio
Small entrance patio
Sitting wall
Sitting wall

Plantings

The lighting was partial shade and I didn’t have to worry with deer as the house was surrounded by farm fields that interested the deer more. Between the wall and the steps, I planted Serbian Cypress, Microbiota decussata, an evergreen ground cover that stays low to the ground and is quite beautiful. It looks like juniper but has a softer texture and doesn’t have the disease problems that junipers can get.

Serbian Cypress is next to the brick wall
Serbian Cypress is next to the brick wall

 

Serbian Cypress
Serbian Cypress

On the right side of the steps, I planted pink drift roses which bloom all summer long and stay low and mound like. The gold perennial between the steps is ‘Angelina’ Sedum.

Base of the steps plantings
Base of the steps plantings

Around the base of the steps, I planted ‘Guacamole’ Hosta, ‘Patriot’ Hosta, variegated ‘Solomans Seal’, Japanese Painted Fern, and ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea for some height.

Frances Williams Hosta
Frances Williams Hosta

Down on the existing patio there was a foot wide strip of soil that needed plantings and I chose ‘Frances Williams’ Hosta for its spectacular size and leaf markings.

Japanese Painted Fern 'Ghost'
Japanese Painted Fern ‘Ghost’
A tricolor beech brightens up the border next to the house
A tricolor beech brightens up the border next to the house

Additional plantings were added around the house to spruce it up when the rear patio and plantings were completed. A tri-color Beech gives the shady side planting bed a pop of color and and vertical element.

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Kousa Dogwood in full bloom set in the lawn
Kousa Dogwood in full bloom set in the lawn

 

Fountain Magic-Installing a Fountain in 15 Minutes

How to install a fountain in 15 minutes
How to install a fountain in 15 minutes

Installing a simple re-circulating fountain is a DIY project for anyone. Even with my total lack of mechanical knowledge, it became a snap to set this up.

Fountain with pump inside reservoir
Fountain with pump inside reservoir; there is a built in shelf for marginal water plants to sit

The Set Up

Creating a warm and inviting outdoor living space at the local decorator show house this spring, made it clear how easy and effective a fountain set up can work in the landscape. I bought everything at a local garden center – reservoir, pump, tubing, bamboo fountain, and water plants, and put it together in a few minutes. After I planted shrubs and perennials around it, the fountain looked grounded and like it belonged there.

The faux bamboo cascading fountain came as part of the package with the reservoir, and became a three-tiered cascading waterfall into the reservoir that created a nice relaxing water movement sound.

Fountain in landscape
Fountain in landscape

How-To

  1. Gather your materials –  reservoir, pump, tubing, water plants, extension cord
  2. Place your reservoir on a flat level area; Use a level to make sure it is perfectly level
  3. Fill with water almost to the top
  4. Place pump at the bottom of the reservoir, pulling the cord and inserting it into the notch at the rim of the reservoir
  5. Plug pump cord into outdoor extension cord and bury the cord a couple of inches under the surface of the soil so it is hidden from view (I wrapped the plug with some plastic to waterproof it)
  6. Place bamboo fountain on the inset shelf;  I raised it up slightly with a piece of flat stone
  7. Place water plants on the reservoir shelf and sit floating plants on top; I added a large glass ball to float on top to add interest
  8. Plug in and enjoy!
Set up of bamboo fountain, using a flat piece of stone to raise it up slightly
Set up of bamboo fountain, using a flat piece of stone to raise it up slightly

Maintenance

The only maintenance involved was pulling out fallen leaves occasionally, and topping off the water level once a week lost from evaporation. Cleaning is only necessary once a year. The constant running of the water will eliminate any mosquito breeding. Fish would not be happy in this environment, as there is not enough room to swim.

The cost for the fountain, plants, pump, tubing, etc. came up to about $350, which I consider very reasonable. The water cascading out of the bamboo creates a soothing water trickling sound, which makes any water feature worth its weight in gold.

Water plants in fountain water
Water plants in fountain water